Signal Hub Manager Paul Coope tracks the transformation of the unit in the Riverside shopping centre in Shrewsbury into the Hub for deaf and hard of hearing people in Shropshire…
Week one (September 2014)
Everyone here at Signal is anticipating the shopfitters coming in and starting work on our new Hub this week. I, especially, am looking forward to watching its progress from chrysalis to butterfly. The space is large, open and rather empty at the moment. It is full of promise, a bit like a blank page just waiting to be drawn on. What will the finished image be?
Tuesday 30 September
We have lift-off. The shopfitters have arrived today and begun moving in the first elements of our fit-out. As I stand in the open space there is a hive of activity all around me, as all the timbers for the stud walls and a large stack of plasterboard arrive. For my first week with Signal as Hub Manager this is all very exciting. Equipment, tools, and materials are all here just waiting for the action to start.
Friday 3 October
As I arrive at the Hub today, I can see it starting to take shape. Stud walls stand like an open labyrinth along the back of the Hub, inviting me to step through the spaces where walls will eventually form a solid barrier. I can feel the elements of the shop-fit starting to come together and now see the paper plans growing into a solid structure.
There is a lot of interest from people passing the front of the unit, with many stopping to see what is going on. The whole Riverside mall is coming to life with different users.
Week two (October 2014)
Each day seems to bring a new perspective to the Hub. Today I can see the builders are fixing plaster to the framework – the whole space is in organised chaos. I can start to visualise where desks and furniture will be placed and can give some thought to how we will decorate the space.
A big note of thanks at this point goes to the generous support from Shropshire Council, which is donating surplus furniture to Signal for the project. Rob Jones, Property Operations Officer at the Council has been able to source some desks and other items for the Hub.
Our other partners are also starting to get excited by the changes. Heather and Cheryl, who will bring a branch of the inclusive Links Café to the Hub, have started to think about their space, and we are working together to ensure we have a pleasant spot for visitors to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee.
Thursday 9 October
The electricians and IT crew are in today and the whole place is abuzz with workers. It is a bit like watching an intricate choreographed piece, as everyone moves around the Hub completing their allotted tasks.
By the end of the day we have wires sitting in quiet anticipation, waiting for the final fit-out once all the walls, skirting and decorating are completed. The ceiling lights have been moved to suit the room configuration and I can start to appreciate what has been achieved already in such a short space of time.
We had a visit from Ruby Hartshorn (pictured right) from the Shropshire Disability Network this afternoon, and we were able to talk about what we hope to achieve with the Hub and give Ruby a brief overview of the work so far. We have made sure that access within the Hub is user-friendly for all and that it is a comfortable area to move around.
Friday 10 October
It is a day to take stock of the past week and a half’s frenetic work in the Hub. I can see the main form of the place now, though one room is still to be plasterboarded.
I have a meeting here today with Andy Bleach from the Shropshire Council Sensory Impairment Team to show him the venue and discuss working together in the Hub.
I stand in what will be our reception area and can see we are moving ever closer to completion. What we need now are volunteers who will help us prepare for opening in November! If there is anyone out there who is interested in volunteering at the Hub or would like some more information about the opportunities we have here, please contact me and we can meet to talk about our new venture.
We will be holding an information day to let potential volunteers know more about what we hope to do at the Hub, answer questions and have the chance to chat informally to everyone. This day is planned for Thursday 20 November at the Hub.
Week three (October 2014)
Monday 13 October
More deliveries today: plasterboard for the second skin of the walls and huge bags of soundproofing insulation to go inside the walls. There is ebb and flow of materials filling the space, rather like a tide. One moment the whole Hub is full of building materials, and they decrease as they are used, only to be replaced by the next batch.
All the rooms will be insulated to help to reduce sound, so that the audiologists and others who use them will have a specially designed quieter space in which to do their assessments. We will also be installing a specialist audiology booth provided by the local NHS Audiology department, so that hearing tests are undertaken in a controlled environment.
Things are moving more steadily now, as we complete the work on and inside the rooms. While off-site we source equipment and furniture to complete the Hub.
Tuesday 14 October
I managed to source some free carpet today for our back-of-house area in the Hub and have earned the nickname ‘Womble’ for my resourcefulness. I am sure this is a term of endearment from my colleagues!
The second skin of plasterboarding is going on to the walls today to help control sound in all the rooms in the Hub. You now get a real feel for the shape of our new centre, with the reception and café area looking very bright and airy.
Wednesday 15 October
The insulation is being cut and packed into the wall spaces and two rooms have been completed today – another step closer to the end of the build.
I have now got to start thinking about how we will decorate, furnish and lay out the main foyer area. Will it be big colourful fabric prints on the walls, or paintings and pictures of our projects? As I mentioned at the start of this blog, it is like a blank page or, should I say, palate.
This blog was first published on the website of the Shropshire Disability Network. Watch out for part two, coming soon!